I   don't know why anyone would question the propriety of WellSpan's near-$600,000 donation to the City of York to be used in the modernization of the former York City Hall structure at 50 W. King St.

And that, of course, will be the brand spanking new home of the York City Police Department.

But for some reason, some folks don't think it's appropriate that WellSpan kicked in more than a half-million dollars -- no strings attached, this is found money -- to help pay for the project.

City officials promised no local property tax dollars would be used to fund the conversion of the former City Hall to an accredited, state-of-the-art police department.

Keep in mind that the city police department is the oldest and largest law enforcement agency in York County.

Also keep in mind that the cops there have been working for years -- decades even -- in what might be viewed by professionals in law enforcement as near-slum conditions.

I've been there. I've also been in most of the police departments that dot York County, including the Pennsylvania State Police, and believe me when I tell you the York City cops' work environment is bare bones, cramped and fairly meager compared to most of the others.

The city police force deserves better.

And it finally was going to get something better. But money got tight.


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They had the promise of a $5 million state grant that was to be used to pay for the project. But then the bids came in higher and higher. Not even $5 million was going to be enough.

So they were looking for ways they could shave some of the costs.

That's when WellSpan came to the rescue.

"Without their help," York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said, "there were some things that would have been removed from the project. ... They saw a need, and we're glad they stepped in to help us out."

And while I don't think WellSpan necessarily had any more obligation than anyone else to help fund this project, I'm glad they did it.

Because someone other than city taxpayers needed to step up to see this project through to completion.

Remember, there is about $400 million worth of property in York City for which no property taxes are paid.

It's tax-exempt property -- land and buildings owned by churches, the school district, government and social service organizations -- for which taxes are not assessed. Nearly 40 percent of all city property falls into one of those categories. About half of those properties are owned by a church or religious institution.

City residents and business owners were hit to the tune of a 17 percent increase in municipal property taxes last year, while tax-exempt property owners weren't asked to pay anything.

Yet they all benefit from city services, including police protection.

Starting last summer, city officials began sending letters to tax-exempt property owners, asking for a payment in lieu of taxes of at least 25 percent of what their municipal tax bill would be.

That wasn't the first time the city twisted the arms of tax-exempt property owners to kick in. It's been seeking a little cooperation for years. And for years, that's what it's gotten -- a little cooperation.

Darned little.

In 2011, for instance, tax-exempt properties donated about $310,000 to the city. And except for about $90,000, all of that came from WellSpan.

So WellSpan has a history of digging a little deeper when it comes to helping out York City.

And it should. Its property at York Hospital is worth at least $280 million. If it weren't tax-exempt, it'd be expected to pay $5.7 million a year in property taxes to York City alone.

Take 25 percent of that -- the city's latest initiative -- and they were probably asked six months ago to pay about $1.4 million in lieu of taxes.

They might not dig that deep in the end, but they did throw almost $600,000 at the York City Police renovation project.

Last year, Keith Noll, the York Hospital president and WellSpan senior vice president, said, "As has always been the case in the past, we're more than happy to ... talk about the needs of the city."

It's true there are a lot of different ways that $600,000 could be spent by the city.

But it suits me just fine if it's used to complete the police department project.

The city police have been pretty patient over many years, watching as everyone else seemed to have their needs fulfilled first.

It's finally their turn.

Thanks to WellSpan, the city police are getting what they need.

And, for once, maybe a little more.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.